Friday, February 11 marks the International Day of Women and Girls in Science. Established by the United Nations General Assembly in 2015, this day promotes full and equal access to and participation in science for women and girls.
At Dean College, this day holds plenty of significance, as the majority of professors in our science programs are women, including all five full-time faculty members. From Biology to Pre-Nursing to Exercise Science and more, these faculty members are not only advancing the field, but also inspiring the next generation of women in science. “It is such an honor that we are mainly women in our department, and I feel that it’s such an important role model for our Dean College students to see, because women in science are so underrepresented,” said Professor Patricia Crowley, Assistant Professor of Biology and Lab Manager. “Even though we see more women going towards science every day, there are some barriers and obstacles. We take great pride in showing our students that you can overcome those obstacles and do whatever interests you in science.”
Dr. Jessica Pisano, Program Coordinator for Mathematics and Science and Associate Professor of Biology and Mathematics, emphasized the holistic approach to the science programs and the faculty’s compassion and empathy as key differentiators that help support students and get them where they want to go. “Since I’ve been at Dean and had the privilege to be surrounded by so many other strong women, one of my goals is to make sure that the young women who come through our doors feel supported and find their confidence,” Pisano said. “One of the ways that we do that is by showing the history of women in science, their contributions and being honest about why they got sidelined. What were the struggles that they faced, so that we can work together to make sure that this next generation of women in science don’t face those same obstacles?”
All acknowledged the women who came before and inspired them – from the trailblazers in the field, like Rosalind Franklin and Candace Pert, to their own professors and mentors that have supported them throughout their education and career paths. And they emphasized the importance of doing the same for Dean College students. “In my own undergraduate work, I had that very special relationship with my mentors and it means everything,” explained Dr. Dawn Poirier, Associate Professor of Biology and Director of Rooney Shaw Center for Innovation in Teaching. “At Dean, we have small classes that support students in being able to interact closely to do research with us, and to have their questions answered and their opinions valued. And I think that is very powerful.”
Dr. Erin Thomas, Coordinator of Exercise Science and Professor of Exercise Science, and Dr. Coleen Bartlett Taylor, Assistant Professor of Biology and Sport/Fitness Studies, also explained how the support of a cohort enables collaboration, innovation and the ability to advance the future of science. “I have been teaching for many, many years, but I never felt like I was part of a cohort until I came here to Dean,” said Dr. Bartlett Taylor. “One of the first things I did when I got here was to start to build a course that was a cross between biology and wellness, so we had to figure out a way to talk about cells while we were talking about wellness. It’s been possible because of the support and the inspiration that has been offered by every single member of this incredible cohort of women scientists here at Dean.” Dr. Thomas added that she is excited not only about the future of research and technology, but also how the next generation of women in science will contribute to the field. “I think it's really powerful to see women understand science and fitness,” she said. “I'm really happy that we have women in the classroom, they can see that we know how to use high-level fitness testing equipment and we can teach them things they've never learned in class or with a sports team before. A lot of times at a younger age, you don't have female professors that talk to you about fitness testing, and so at Dean, I think we're inspiring the next female scientists to move along the way.”
For those students interested in pursuing a career in science, Dr. Pisano offered some wise advice: “Let your curiosity drive you. Not striving to reach some benchmark, not striving to get those top grades or get your hand up first, but let your own curiosity drive you,” she said. “That way, you're going to be guided by your own answers, and we all know that curiosity and an open mind is what makes a good scientist.”
Watch the video below to hear more from our science faculty members: